Sleeveless Dress Sewing Tutorial - An Orla Affair

This is the most blogging I have ever done. Ever. This is my 7th post in 3 days! Insane. I am very excited to finally share the sewing steps to make sleeveless Orla with pockets and striped skirt, while using facings to finish neckline and armholes. It will be a very long and picture heavy tutorial, so grab a cup of coffee, tea or a glass of wine and join in. At this point I assume that you have done modifications to your bodice pieces to make them sleveless,drafted your facings and pockets, as well as altered skirt pieces to make striped skirt. The last step is optional however, you do not need to have a striped skirt to make a sleeveless Orla. Not all Orlas must have a striped skirt after all... I also assume that you have all your pieces cut out and ready to sew. So here we go! In this tutorial GREY means RIGHT side of fabric, and WHITE means WRONG side of fabric.

Bodice and Facings

  1. Fuse interfacing strips, about 1" wide, to the wrong side of the centre back seam on each of the back bodice pieces. I like to interface the fabric where the zipper is being inserted as it provides for more stability and a nicer looking finish.At this point you can finish the centre back seams with your preferred method.
  2. Sew darts on front bodice pieces and both back bodice pieces and press them to the centre front and back, respectively.
  3. With right sides together pin front bodice to both back bodice pieces at the shoulder seams. Stitch. Press seams open. Repeat with the facing shoulder seams. Note, that at this point we are not sewing side seams.
  4. With right sides facing each other, pin facing to the bodice at the neckline. Stitch starting and ending ~1" away from the centre back seam. Leaving that extra room eases zipper insertion later.
  5. Trim the seam allowance to ~1/4" and clip into the seam allowance while being careful not to cut through the stitching line.
  6. Flip facing towards seam allowance and lightly press. Understitch the facing, starting and ending about 1 1/2" away from the centre back seam, catching seam allowance underneath.Turn facing to the wrong side of the bodice and give it a good press.
  7. We will finish armholes one by one using burrito method. EDIT: I was told that a flat armhole finish method would work here as well. I believe it is true, as I suspect I confused using this burrito method for all kinds of armhole finishes, whereas it may truly be only needed when there is no center back seam in the garment. I haven't tested a flat method yet, but I still wanted to mention it here. Working from the right side of the bodice, turn the bodice sideways so that one armhole seam is facing you and the other away from you. We will be working of the armhole that is further away from you first. Take the bodice piece that is closer to you, together with the facing, and roll not towards the other armhole. Stop halfway through the shoulder seam of the shoulder away from you.
  8. Holding the rolled bodice and facing with your hands, separate the bodice from the facing on the edge of the armhole facing away from you. Holding the rolled bodice and the rest of the bodice, flip the facing so that it lays at the the bottom on the bodice piece, close to you. Wrap the facing around the rolled bodice and pin it to the bodice at the armhole, right sides together. The rolled bodice will be enclosed in between the rest of the bodice and facing. Sew, being careful not to catch the rest of the bodice in the seam.
  9. Trim seam allowance to ~1/4" and clip into it at the curved edges, being careful not to cut through the stitching line.
  10. To turn the bodice to the right side, gently pull on the rolled part from either side of the bodice, until the whole bodice is turned out. Press. Repeat for the other armhole.
  11. Finish the raw edges of the side seams on facings and both front and back pieces with your preferred method. Flip the facings up at the side seams. Pin the side seams of the facings and bodice pieces, matching the armhole seams. Sew. Press the seams open.
  12. Finish the bottom edge of the facing with your preferred method. OR You can also finish the raw edge of the facing with a bias binding. To do so, you will need a bias binding strip the width of 1" and the length of the bottom edge of the facing. Pin the bias binding to the bottom edge of the facing with right sides together. Stitch 1/4" away from the edge. Press the bias binding down. Flip the bias binding under the facing and pin. Stitch in the ditch. Trim the excess bias binding seam allowance on the inside.
  13. Turn the facing onto the wrong side of the bodice again and give it a good press.
I have filmed a video which clarifies all of the steps above. However, being technically challenged I was not able to figure out how to upload it to my computer in time for this post. I assumed my regular app that I use to transfer images from my camera to my computer would work, but sadly it doesn't. I think I need some kind of card reader thing to be able to do it. (I knew I should have used my iPhone... sigh) I will look into it right away and I will upload the video in a couple days. Hang tight snd sorry for delay!

Striped skirt

Below are instructions for optional striped skirt. This is how I assembled the skirt of the dress in the very first photo in this post. You will assemble front skirt piece and two skirt pieces before sewing side seams of the skirt together. We will be working with two stripes at a time.
  1. Pin the raw edges of stripe 1 and 2 together. Sew. Note that the dashed lines below indicate a different fabric colour.
  2. Finish the seam allowances together and press towards the darker stripe. Topstitch close to the seam.
  3. Attach the rest of the stripes together following the same steps, so that you have full front skirt piece and two back skirt pieces. Below is graphic of the pattern piece as a reminder of how the stripes go together. I find it helpful to keep paper pattern pinned to the fabric until I am ready to work with the pieces, as the paper pattern has all the information I need to know to figure out which stripe piece I am working with.

Pockets and Skirt

  1. Stitch two lines of gathering stitches between notches on front skirt pieces and both back skirt pieces. The first line of stitches should be 1/4" away from the edge and the second line 3/8" away from the first line. Note that gathering stitches are the longest stitch on your sewing machine. Leave long tails on the stitches for the ease of gathering.
  2. Finish the raw edges of the side seams on front skirt pieces, back skirt pieces and all four pocket pieces with your preferred method. Note that you are only finishing the short side seam of the pocket pieces, not the long curved edge.
  3. With right sides together pin one of the pocket pieces to the matching side seam of the front skirt piece, ensuring the notches match. Sew from the top edge to the bottom notch at 1/4" seam allowance. Ensure that the gathering threads from the step above are not caught in the stitches.
  4. Flip the pocket onto the seam allowance. Press. Understitch in between the notches.
  5. Repeat the same steps for the other front skirt side seam, and both back skirt pieces.
  6. With right side together, pin back skirt piece to the matching side of the front skirt piece. Stitch from the top edge of the skirt side seam to the first notch, and from the second notch to the bottom of the skirt. Stitch all around the curved pocket piece, stopping at the side skirt seam.
  7. Finish the raw edge of the pocket. Clip into side seam allowance on the back skirt piece right at the pocket notches, being careful not to cut through the seam line. This part of the seam allowance will be pressed towards the front skirt to make for a nicer pocket. Press side skirt seam allowances open, and pocket to the front. Repeat for the other side.
  8. Pin the skirt to the bodice at the side seams. Gently pull bobbin threads from both sides of the front skirt piece until the fullness is gathered to match the length of the bodice. Distribute the gathers evenly and pin, ensuring the pocket pieces are pinned towards the front. Repeat for the back skirt pieces.
  9. Sew skirt to the bodice. Pull the gathering threads out and discard. Finish seam allowances together and press to the top.


  1. Working from the right side of the bodice, pull the facing away and pin an invisible zipper to one of the sides of the centre back seam. Stitch the zipper in place close to the zipper teeth. Repeat for the other side, ensuring the waist seam is aligned. Finish the rest of the centre back seam below the zipper and press seam allowances open.
  2. Pull the centre back seam allowance flat from behind the zipper. Flip the facing onto the bodice with right sides together. The facing will be covering the zipper. Pin along the unfinished neck edge and top part of the zipper. Sew in place, ensuring the neckline seam meets the seam used to attach facing to bodice. Sew inside the centre back seam allowance with zipper teeth on the outside of the seam, making sure not to catch them with your needle as you sew.
  3. Trim the corner and using the point turner turn the facing to the inside of the bodice. Repeat for the other side.
  4. Press. Close the zipper to ensure the top edges align. If they don't, turn the facing back to the inside and repeat the step above, stitching down the side that is longer until both neck edges match.


  1. Align facing and bodice at the side seams and pin. Attach facing to the bodice by stitching in the ditch in the side seam at bottom edge of the facing for about 3/8".
  2. Hem the dress with your preferred method.
You are done!! I really hope these instructions help you in your sleeveless Orla assembly. Let me know if you have any questions. Some of the steps are rather complicated and it is pretty late as I am typing this, and I may have had a few glasses of wine... I am going to take a little break for a few days, but I will sure be back with the video I promised above and another Orla hack and sewing steps. Until then, Anya
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.